With infinite patience, I carefully slotted the new and improved miniature reactor into the housing on the rear of my mech and stepped back with a long sigh. I’d spent the days since we left Leirthym working on it, since my plans for this thing had gotten a little more ambitious, and thus required more power.
It had been a good learning experience, and I felt a little more equipped to deal with the ship’s reactors down the line. Sorta… I was pretty sure there was some hand waving going on, but both the ship reactor and the smaller mech one used muon-catalysed fusion. I’d had to tinker with this one to increase its output, and now was the moment of truth…
Using the newly installed console, I tapped through the menus until I came to the controls for the dormant reactor. The battery was full, so it should have enough juice to jump start the reactor… if not, well I could charge it again with the ship’s reactors.
The fuel went in smoothly, becoming easily trapped within the many interlocking fields of gravity that were housed inside the reactor. Damned thing had like ten miniature gravity plates inside it. Since that went so well, I just up and punched the ignite button without any ceremony.
Heat readings erupted across my diagnostics readouts, spiking wildly as a chain reaction split particles and fused others together inside the containment chamber. My heart rate increased along with the temperature inside the champer as I feared for a moment that I was about to blow everything up.
Thankfully, that did not happen, and I watched with more than a little relief as it simmered down into a comfortable hum. I stared at the readout, hope rising within me inch by inch… it was working… it was working!
“Hey bun, are you seeing any problems?” I asked aloud of my little mechanic companion.
It shook its head in my ocula vision, giving me a wide grin and a big thumbs up. Sweet, if mechanic bun thought it was good, then it was good!
Next was to bring the rest of the systems on one at a time. I began with the full computer core, rather than the weak safe mode version I was using right now. That came up without a hitch, so I began to roll through each of the currently installed components, watching carefully for any signs of a problem.
Nothing went wrong, which had me staring at it in disbelief, then suspicion. Something must have gone wrong, things didn’t just work properly on the first try.
Sure enough, the computing core began to complain loudly about a half dozen things, and I lunged for the reactor power down button. Alright… clearly the core I’d bought was a dud. But maybe I could fix it…
We stopped at a small port in an out of the way system to sell the goods we’d picked up back at the moon, and according to Roger we made a pretty decent profit. I didn’t look into the finances of the ship too much because I knew that was a rabbithole that I’d get lost in, but Warren seemed to have it handled anyway. Dude was whip smart.
I focused on my mech while they were all doing their things, fixing the computer core with a lot of research and a lot of soldering. That, and sourcing some more components from… redundant systems around the ship.
Getting the arms and legs mounted was a lot of fun, since technically they could each be used as legs or arms. I wasn’t going to discriminate. The idea was that it could walk on four legs for speed, then get up on two so it could use the other two as arms. A proper mech didn’t limit itself to the constraints of human anatomy!
Once we were safely back in aetherspace after our detour, I felt I was ready to give the mech a proper test run. Well… first I’d stand back and admire it.
A concession I’d had to make early on was that there still wasn’t enough room within the chassis for me to be comfortable, so I’d ended up finding a different solution. Which was to slice it up a bit. Just a bit though! It was still spherical, but with a few indented seams between the chassis plates. Those seams had turned out to be a useful little modification, the material I’d used wasn’t quite as rigid as the plates, essentially allowing them to act as shock absorbers.
It had taken me a long time to replicate the various properties of the chassis, but with our small 3d printer I’d been able to do something similar. Wasn’t as impact resistant, but the seams didn’t cover a whole lot of area, so the chances they would get hit were minimal.
I’d also used those spaces to mount a whole suite of different sensors that faced in all directions, even sneakily stealing some of Cerri’s spares. She’d be happy when she realised I could go out in this thing for close-up data gathering, but I wanted it to be a surprise.
The limbs were all designed to collapse into the chassis, allowing the mech to take on a ball form when I needed it. To make it almost seamless, I’d actually cut out sections of the plating and attached it to the limbs, so that when they nestled into their slots it completed the sphere.
Exterior visual inspection complete, it was time to get inside and test her out properly. To that end, I asked, smiling as I spoke the name I’d come up with for the machine, “Bundit, please open.”
“Understood ma’am, preparing for pilot override,” the mech said, the front unfurling like a metal and composite flower to reveal the interior.
Inside Bundit was a small chair, only big enough to fit me out of our crew, as well as a few small control panels. As for control methods, the armrests could flip upside down to reveal physical controls, and I’d rigged the headrest with a sensor that would connect to my implants and allow me to control things with my mind.
Contrary to what many thought about mind-machine interfaces, unless you were wildly good at multitasking, it was actually very hard to control a ton of functions with it. My plan was to use a mixture of both, physical controls for basic functions like movement and rotation, where muscle memory would end up doing most of the work. Meanwhile, I’d use the mind-machine interface for more involved things, like arm manipulation and using tools.
Carefully placing my feet on the two lower ‘petals’ of the mech’s door, I climbed in and turned to sit down. I’d tested the seat out a bunch of times, even removing some of the stuffing in the seat at one point to get more headroom. This was different though, Bundit was complete now, and it made all the difference.
“Bundit, close doors,” I said quietly to my new favourite companion. Well, except for Cerri of course, but that was different.
The doors closed with the quiet whirring of mechanical parts, then a hiss as the chamber swapped to internal life support. A huge grin spread across my face as I began to flip the few switches needed to start things up. Don’t know why they always had so many switches in aircraft, seemed silly. I’d automated a lot of the process for getting things running, and it’s not like I had to start the engines every time, just ramp up output from idle.
Going through the startup sequence, I watched with excitement as green readings came up across all consoles. Bundit was ready to go! Flipping the armrests, I placed my hands on the controls and began to move. Time to give some of my crewmates a bit of a fright… starting with David.
My two friends had arrived back in the Turshen not long ago, but I’d been too busy to hang out with them outside of meals and stuff. Time to go and… hang out.
Bundit was actually pretty quiet so long as I didn’t engage the magnetic clamps, so I made my way carefully out and into the warehouse. It was almost alarming how smoothly it moved, each step quick and careful in that way that only an AI could achieve. Specifically, my pilot bun AI, which I’d placed inside Bundit to handle operations. I wasn’t sure if that was how they were meant to be used, but whatever.
When I reached the ladder up, rather than using the rungs, I simply engaged the mag locks and walked up the walls. I had a grin on my face the whole time too, this was so much fun. The heavy clunk sound of Bundit walking up the walls was like music to my ears.
When I made it into the hallway, I ran straight into Gloria coming the other way. Her eyes blew wide the moment she saw me coming, freezing in place for a moment as though trying to figure out what she was looking at. I don’t think Gloria had even come down into my lair yet, so she didn’t even know what the drone had looked like before I messed with it.
“Hey Gloria,” I murmured quietly, my voice being projected out through the external speakers. I felt safe in here, and therefore I had words! Unintended functionality was always welcome!
“Alia?” she asked incredulously, tilting her head as though a slightly different angle would let her see through Bundit’s armour.
“Yeah, hello,” I replied, pulling up short and sort of just standing there. I had no idea how to interact with our pilot… she kind of intimidated me. Okay, not kind of, she definitely intimidated me. Wait, I was headed for the rec room. “Uh, I need to get past you,” I explained nervously, raising one of Bundits hands to point past her.
“Well, that’s a bit of a problem,” she laughed, expression full of bemusement. “You’re uh… a bit wide.”
“I have a solution!” I said quickly, hoping she wouldn’t be too upset with what I was about to do.
Reaching out carefully, I placed my large mech arms around her torso, earning a cry of protest from her. “What are you doing?!” she demanded with alarm all over her expression.
“Just moving you,” I said as soothingly as possible. Before she could react, I lifted her over my head, spun around and placed her behind me. “There we go!”
I stood and waited with bated breath as she opened and closed her mouth in shock, a whole mountain range of emotions flashing across her face. Finally, she laughed, shaking her head, “Jesus, Alia… ask before you do that next time, yeah? Preferably later, with different tools attached to those arms.”
I blinked, my mind processing what she’d just said before I let out a squeak. “Gloria!”
“Had to reassert my dominance after that womanhandling you gave me,” she chuckled, giving me a wink. “Anyway, I’m tired, so unless you plan on joining me in bed, I’ll catch you later.”
Then she was gone, giving me a wave over her shoulder as she made for her cabin. Thank goodness she couldn’t see me blushing in here. Why was she always propositioning me anyway? I wasn’t even overtly hot or anything, just pretty and cute. Cerri was the hot one, her body was so sexual I had to constantly keep my brain from shorting out by making it fail to notice.
I guess they did have a history though, and if Gloria was a lesbian… well I was the only other option. Except i didn’t even know if she was a lesbian… except I did, because if she was interested in the guys as well, then she’d be going after them instead of me. Like… everyone on the ship was more interesting and attractive than I was.
Ah well, time to go and spook everyone else too! When I made it to the rec room, I carefully pushed the door open, the sounds of gaming coming through Bundit’s speakers.
“Jesus fucking christ!” a male voice exclaimed a few seconds later. I grinned.